In George Cukor's career, "Zaza" comes after "Holiday" and before "The Women" and "The Philadelphia Story". In Claudette Colbert's, it comes between "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" and "Midnight", two wonderful Wilder/Brackett scripted films. And yet, the film is little more than a footnote in both their careers.
in other films,
and devoids his character of any charm - although to be fair he doesn't
have as much screen time as his character should have. But I don't like
him, and it pains me to see him on screen. Colbert on the other hand is
completely miscast, despite a few glorious moments. When she plays
Marshall (the meeting at the station, the backstage meeting) she excels -
but then she overdoes the innocent girl moments. And this is the key -
she is far too knowing for me to believe she could ever be deceived by a
man, any man.
Cukor himself, should have been more at
ease with the material - we are in his favoured milieu of the theatre
("A Double Life", "Les Girls"). The Portuguese Cinematheque note on film
also draws comparisons with "Camille". But I never felt his heart was
on this. The good moments - the opening and closing, the scenes I
mentioned above, and Colbert's scene with the doll - are few and far
between. The opening scene in particular, with the camera travelling
through the occupants of third class train carriage ending in Colbert in a
shot that anticipates her similar introduction in "Midnight" On the
other hand, certain scenes drag (Colbert's visit to Marshall's Paris
apartment) or fail to achieve the right tone (most of the backstage
scenes, where there is a lot of repetition).
thing in the film are the three supporting actors, playing Colbert's
stepmother, her maid and her agent/partner (respectively Helen Westley,
Constance Collier and Bert Lahr). Their presence helps bridge the duller moments of the film.